John Gant, RHP (Profile)
The good-bodied and eccentric Gant is probably the likeliest to yield big-league value of the triumvirate acquired by St. Louis tonight. He’s already spent time there, having thrown 50 major-league innings in 2016. As a rookie, Gant struck out nearly a batter per inning (recording a 22% strikeout rate) but also struggled with walks (9.5%). Gant’s fastball sits in the low 90s, mostly 90-93, but will touch as high as 96 and has a slightly above-average spin rate. His changeup is his best secondary offering and best pitch overall. It’s a plus, low-80s cambio that disappears away from lefties as it approaches the plate. Gant maintains his fastball’s arm speed throughout release. There are times when Gant makes a visible effort to create extra movement on the pitch, alters his arm action, and causes his change to flatten out. He also has a loopy, below-average mid-70s curveball. He’s had to use the curve more frequently than a pitch of this quality usually warrants in order to navigate his way through minor-league lineups multiple times.
As for role, the Braves shuttled Gant back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in 2016. He projects as a fastball/changeup reliever in the Tyler Clippard mold. On the other hand, if he’s going to start, Gant will need to accomplish some combination of the following:
- Develop a better curveball; or
- Develop a third pitch that’s better than his curveball; or
- Improve his control/command by at least a half grade.
He’s 24 and, while it isn’t impossible, that kind of progression is unlikely at this stage.
Chris Ellis, RHP (Profile)
Once part of the package returned from Anaheim in exchange for Andrelton Simmons, Ellis’ command issues and lack of a quality changeup at age 24 point to a likely role in middle relief. In 146 innings between Double- and Triple-A, Ellis struck out 126, walked 87 and posted a 4.49 ERA. He was mostly 90-94 in his Arizona Fall League stint with an average, vertically breaking slider in the 78-83 mph range. He generates good plane on the fastball because of his overhand arm slot. His changeup is below average, as is his command, and the changeup has little projection because it’s hard to create movement on it from that arm slot. If the fastball/slider tick up in relief, he’s a solid big-league relief piece.
Both Ellis and Gant are likely to see time in St. Louis this next year.
Luke Dykstra, 2B (Profile)
Despite his terrific low-level performance, scouts are skeptical about Dykstra’s swing playing at upper levels and few are confident in his ability to sustain this success. He’s a career .300/.335/.385 hitter in the minors. Even if he does keep hitting like that, Dykstra’s well below-average power isn’t enough to profile everyday at his current position, second base. He’ll post some plus run times and might fit in a speedy, multi-positional utility role if St. Louis starts moving him around the diamond and prepping him for such.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.